Women need to be protected.
Women long to be told they are beautiful by the men in their lives.
Women are gentle.
Women are born to nurture and support.
Women need to be led.
Women are easily swayed by their wayward emotions.
Women want a knight in shining armor.
Women want to be treated like princesses.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these phrases (and others like them) coming from a man behind a pulpit. Back when I was still steeped in fundamentalist Christianity, these claims made me uncomfortable because even then I did not fit the mold. I was used to having other people tell me who I should be and what I should want, so I internalized these messages and tried to assimilate myself to this ideal of a woman. It never worked.
When I hear these types of sermons NOW, I am more than uncomfortable, I am angry. How many spirited young girls are sitting in this church, losing their identities while taking notes on how to be a “better” woman? How many innocent young boys are being programmed for misogyny because of the ignorant babbling of a pompous man?
When did the church become the authority on personalities and relationships? What makes them think they know what every woman wants and needs? What makes them think they can solve everyone’s marriage problems with the same list of rules and regulations? When are people going to realize that the church is NOT qualified to be giving out relationship advice? It’s great to incorporate your morality into your relationships, but faith does not replace experience.
Professional Dating Advice: “Find somebody who “gets” you, someone who makes you happy. Don’t waste time on people who aren’t honest with you, or who don’t treat you respectfully.”
Church Dating Advice: Make a list of must-have criteria for a potential spouse. If you are a man, wait until you are ready to provide for a family, then seek out a woman who is chaste, modest, and godly.
Professional Relationship Advice: Take the time to learn about what your partner likes, wants, and needs. Every person is different, so don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Be open and honest about your own likes, wants, and needs as well. If your spouse seems upset, don’t assume you know what’s wrong, talk to him/her and make sure they know you are there for them. Good communication is key! If you want to have sex, be sure you know what your partner is comfortable with and talk about your expectations.
Church Relationship Advice: Men, be sure to always treat your girl like a fragile princess. Anticipate that she will always be more emotional and weak than you. Don’t bother her with discussion of sports or anything like that. Be sure to assert your manliness as much as possible. If she ever seems upset, it’s because she’s either hormonal or self conscious. This can be cured by telling her how pretty she is and giving her a box of chocolate. P.S. Avoid sexual contact at all cost, it will destroy your relationship.
Professional Marriage Advice: Be sure to talk through everything with your spouse. Talk about your expectations and feelings regularly. Marriage is a partnership, and you two are a team. You are both unique individuals, so only you can know what works best for you. If you ever feel like you can’t work through something on your own, there’s no shame in seeking a little help. Marriage counseling is good for even the healthiest couples because it facilitates better communication, which is key to a happy relationship!
Church Marriage Advice: God created you two to perfectly complement each other. Your marriage will be happiest and healthiest if you adhere to your god given rolls as men and women. If there is contention in your marriage, it is because one or the other of you is not obeying God’s directives for husbands and wives. If you feel like you are facing a challenge in your marriage that you cannot overcome, there is no shame in seeking a little help. Speak with your pastor or an elder at your church. They can pinpoint who is making what mistakes and help you get back on track towards fulfilling your marital rolls. Once you are, through the grace of God, doing everything required of you in your marriage: all else will follow!
So, Mr. Pastor Man behind the pulpit, you can keep your false expectations and stereotypes to yourself. The fact that I am a woman tells you literally nothing about me. Stop telling boys that all women are the same. And please stop telling me what I need.